It will take some time, but Chapel Hill’s girls basketball players will realize what a great year they had.
For the seniors, it’s been a great three years.
Chapel Hill finished with a 24-3 record this season, but it’s that one game that could have been, should have been their 25th win that sticks in their throats when they speak of it.
The Tigers’ 71-53 loss Saturday to undefeated Hickory was played for the N.C. High School Athletics Association 3A championship in Carmichael Arena.
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The loss was Chapel Hill’s only one to a 3A team this year.
The Tigers hadn’t fallen to a member of their NCHSAA classification since losing in the 2013 championship game to two-time titlist Harding University of Charlotte.
Similarly, Hickory had lost only once in 2014 – to undefeated Chapel Hill in the NCHSAA championships in the Smith Center.
Hickory coach Barbara Helms said she never brought up her team’s record during their regular season. She really didn’t need to.
The Red Tornadoes (27-0) beat their opponents by a margin on average of more than 40 points.
They failed to win by double digits only once, a 57-53 decision in December at Morganton Freedom. Chapel Hill matched that amount of points Saturday.
“You could have asked me after any game this year and honestly I couldn’t have told you our record,” Helms said. “The amount of wins didn’t matter. ... Only one game counted this year.”
Helms made sure to remind her team about the 2014 loss to Chapel Hill.
“I told the team before the game I wanted them to remember the bitter feeling they had at the end of that last game,” Helms said.
“If you get a bad enough taste of it, you’ll never let it happen again.”
Helms knew her players would feed on that negative residue to energize themselves for a rematch with Chapel Hill, and Chapel Hill’s ninth-graders, sophomores and juniors might want to do the same in 2016.
But that bitterness is exactly what this year’s five seniors need to overcome. Tamia Eatmon, Raziyah Farrington, Helen Gaynes, Taylor Headen and Jessica Wall “have left a tremendous legacy at Chapel Hill High School,” CHHS coach Sherry Norris said. “I can’t sing their praises enough.”
Three-letter winners Eatmon, Farrington and Wall played on three teams that had a cumulative record of 113-8 and never lost a conference game. Chapel Hill appeared in four consecutive NCHSAA regionals and won three straight to appear in three state championship finals – winning it all last year.
Gaynes and Headen, who moved up to Chapel Hill’s varsity for the 2013-14 season that ended 32-0, had played on an undefeated JV team in 2012-13, so Saturday’s loss was the first they ever experienced in high school.
“They have nothing to hang their heads about,” Norris said. “A lot of people would envy that record – and rightly so. These are the girls who made that happen.”